New York City based hairstylist, Timothy Kingsley has been in the hair scene ever since he was a little kid. As his own mother was a hairdresser, Kingsley quite literally grew up in the hair salon and loved offering her a helping hand whenever he got the chance. With the hair salon being Kingsley’s second home, it ultimately fueled his passion for hair and led him to follow in his mother’s footsteps.
More recently, Kingsley has taken the hair industry by storm with his hair painting skills — transforming his clients’ hair into pieces of art. Two years ago, Kingsley unintentionally got into hair painting when he painted his friend’s hair for fun. It wasn’t until he posted a TikTok of his hair painting process that he saw a huge demand for his work. With his TikTok going viral, Kingsley decided to start offering hair painting as a permanent service and has been creating unique and creative designs on his clients’ hair ever since. Today, Kingsley has over 18,000 followers and 1,200,000 likes on TikTok.
“Based on my work one would assume it must be easy to paint a design on hair, but let me be the one to tell you it isn’t as easy as it looks. Some clients think it’s like drawing on paper, but when you’re transferring an idea from an image on a phone onto someone’s head — things get complicated,” says Kingsley.
When discussing his hair painting process, Kingsley states that there are so many factors that go into executing a clean and vibrant design. From his client’s hair length and hair type all the way to the base color he begins painting onto — the list goes on. What makes hair such a great canvas for Kingsley’s artistic design is the versatility and impermanence that it offers, allowing him to switch his designs up whenever he wants!
“I love doing buzz cut length designs because it allows my clients to shave it off when it grows out and start again on a blank canvas of virgin hair,” says Kingsley.
One thing that comes easy in Kingsley’s hair painting process is finding inspiration for his designs. “I get my inspiration from everything and everywhere! It can be something as obvious as a design I see on Pinterest or from something more inconspicuous like a China plate or a spider constructing a web,” Kingsley says. In addition, he also likes to reference various nail and makeup content since the beauty industry as a whole is so creative, constantly offering new patterns, prints and designs.
When it comes to creating his masterpieces, Kingsley’s go-to tools are paint brushes from his local Dollar Store and his own hands to freehand his designs onto his clients’ hair. Using paint brushes allows Kingsley to create precise sharp lines while also channeling a sense of nostalgia, making him feel as though he is doodling in his old school notebook. Kingsley’s choice of hair colors range anywhere from cheaper alternatives like Adore or Kiss Colors all the way to more expensive hair colors like Iroiro or Manic Panic — his favorite product being Strawberry Leopard Hair Color as they were one of the first brands to reach out to Kingsley to make collaborative content on TikTok and ultimately lead to his partnership with Sally Beauty.
“They were the catalyst that turned my craft into a marketing opportunity and made what I do even more profitable. But to be honest whether you use a five dollar or twenty dollar color, the creativity in executing your design matters most — some of my most amazing designs were from the beauty supply,” says Kingsley.
However, when it comes to lightener, Kingsley does not play around! He discusses that in order to have a successful design, you must lift your client’s hair to a level 10. It’s important to invest in a good quality lightener, Kingsley’s favorites being Schwarzkopf BlondMe and Ion’s Charcoal Flash Lightener.
The first step in Kingsley’s hair painting process starts with a client consultation so he can ensure that both him and his client are on the same page. Kingsley says, “You’d be surprised to hear the unrealistic wild things people ask me to paint for them, I’m not Pablo Picasso people!” When it comes to hair painting, if the hair is too long it will be more difficult to paint a clear design and the hair won’t lift as easily or evenly. To ensure this, Kingsley will either cut his client’s hair to a level two or ask them to come in with their hair precut. From there, he begins bleaching his client’s hair to get it as light as possible giving him the perfect “blank canvas” to work with.
Once his client’s hair emulates the color of the inside of a banana peel, Kingsley knows it is time to rinse and tone. Next, Kingsley mixes various hair colors in either separate bowls or onto a big palette. Because Kingsley freehands his designs (sometimes even getting to freestyle his work) he prefers to use a short angled paint brush for extra precision! Once his client’s hair is painted, Kingsley lets the color sit, ensuring that the product gets deep into the cortex of the hair shaft. From there, he rinses his client’s hair with ice cold water, as it closes and seals the hair cuticle and ultimately prevents the colors from bleeding into one another. After the hair color is rinsed, all it takes is a quick blow dry and Kingsley’s hair painting masterpiece is finished!
In total, Kingsley’s hair painting process takes roughly two hours, but on occasion his more intricate designs can take up to four hours. Recently, Kingsley has branched out from just painting on his preferred canvas — buzz cuts. Challenging himself, he has started coloring long hair extensions and attempting to paint designs in a new format.
Out of all of the designs Kingsley has created throughout his hair painting career his China plate design is by far his favorite. At the time, Kingsley wasn’t as confident in his hair painting skills, but to his surprise he was able to create a landscape filled with dimension and shading — all techniques that he had never done before. “It was an original idea and showed me just how capable I really was,” says Kingsley. Not to mention, Kingsley’s TikTok of his China plate design garnered over a million views making it his most impressive look to date!
To Kingsley, hair painting has grown to be such a popular trend due to the individualistic expression it allows creatives to convey. Every design is unique and can not only be customized to whatever vision the hairstylist has, but also the client. Since hair painting is done by hand, Kingsley notes that even more common designs like flames won’t ever truly look like another person’s work. In addition, Kingsley has noticed that a lot of people aren’t comfortable doing something super bold so the concept of hair painting serves a statement and act of rebellion against the “norm.”
“I think of hair painting like a tattoo (but not permanent). You can get as many designs as you want and the freedom to change your hair based on where or what you’re feeling at the time is a beautiful way to express oneself.”
For more information on Timothy Kingsley and to follow more of his hair painting process, make sure to check out his TikTok and Instagram!